I'm on a cruise of the Med, so unable to post too often. However, last night I was able to share a brief moment with the ship's wine steward who chooses the wines. The task is quite different than what beverage managers experience on land.
A port manager holds most of the cards, it seems. He or she tells each ship's wine manager what's available. I suspect much of it is surplus wine. The other day our wine steward was pleased to get a couple of hundred bottles of a Provence rose while docked in Marseilles. It was OK, but that's about it. I have found that wine aboard ships -- the plonk that is served poolside as well as at dinner -- is acceptable at best. This is Seabourn, too, an upscale ship. They were pouring Nicolas Feuillatte, however, so that's pretty decent champagne.
The port authority apparently acts like a distributor to incoming ships. Our wine steward says he can order directly from the producer too. I was told they go through more than 1,300 bottles a week, which doesn't seem that great for a ship of 600 passengers.
I decided to order a wine package which for $450 gets me access to 6 wines from a pretty damn good list. The list includes a Fevre chablis, Chapoutier white chatauneuf du pape and a Condrieu, Hauts Bailley bordeaux, Silver Oak, Banfi brunello di montalcino, Masi amarone, North Star merlot, and a few more gems that average about $70 a bottle. For a restaurant, those are good averages for premium wines.